bottom line

When you’re in the waiting phase of an adoption, there’s not a lot to talk about. We’re waiting, plain and simple. There’s a lot to think about during this time, though, and we definitely have lots of time to think… and think… and then think some more.

I have to admit that my biggest thought – okay, worry – at this point is how we are going to pay for the rest of this adoption. People don’t talk about the financial aspect of adoption very much, but the bottom line is that it costs a lot of money. A LOT. It is all very worth it in the end, of course, but there’s no getting around the fact that adoption is a daunting financial task for most families to accomplish.

We have already paid about half of our agency fees. So that’s good. But there’s another (significant) half to go, and traveling to Ethiopia will not be cheap. So one good thing about our long wait time, I guess, is that it gives us some time to pull more money together.

Since money was on our minds and we were starting a new calendar year, Craig and I sat down last weekend and examined our 2009 finances. We use software to track our expenses, and we pulled up a report that broke down our spending into different categories. We were hoping to see some really obvious places where we could cut down on spending, so that we could boost our monthly savings in a significant way.

We identified a few areas that we can work on, spending-wise:

  • Eating out
  • Groceries
  • Drop Craig’s gym membership (his choice)
  • Drop my short-term disability insurance (this makes me feel a little uneasy, but the main reason I added it was to cover pregnancy, and it won’t cover adoption maternity leave)
  • Look into getting rid of our home phone line
  • More shopping at the big warehouse store to cut down on costs (I despise going to this place, but Craig has promised we will make joint trips, which makes the trips much more tolerable for me)
  • Drop a car payment (my car will be paid off this spring – yay!)

We decided we would work on these things through the end of February and then re-evaluate to see how we’ve done. If we haven’t made much progress in spending habits, we’ll set up a stricter budget and see how that goes. We would love to do things like refinance our mortgage, but we’ve called a few lenders and nobody will even talk with us since, thanks to the housing market, we’re way underwater on our house. (Yikes.) So that takes out any notion of a home equity line as well.

One thing we noticed in looking back at 2009 is that we have already made progress in a lot of areas. I lowered our car insurance by quite a bit at the end of the year, and we have greatly reduced fun/extra expenses like buying books and going to concerts. We spent almost no money on things like clothing, and had no travel expenses aside from me visiting my grandmother. If only the dogs would cooperate and cut back on their expenses! (Boy, we spend a lot of money on our dogs.)

In the end, though, these cut-backs are still not going to get us to where we need to be. The bottom line is that I need to be making more money. Craig makes a decent salary, but I do not, especially compared to my earning potential and my law school debt. I have been talking about needing a new job for a couple of years, and I’m now firmly dedicated to the idea that the change needs to happen now. More on that another day.

Another big mutual financial priority for us this year is to take a vacation. We haven’t taken a vacation, aside from visiting family (which is basically free), in three years. But this year is our 10th wedding anniversary and also likely our last hurrah, so we want to take some special time and get away together. I have lots of daydreams over where we’ll go, but we need to save up a lot of money for both the adoption and a vacation before we’ll feel like we can take a trip.

I know everyone has their own financial goals and of course many of you have been through (or are going through) the scenario of financing adoption. So, what have you done to save money? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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27 Responses to bottom line

  1. E says:

    what have we done to save money? Good question. Well, we refinanced our home last year and we’re focusing on getting our credit card debt down…one card at a time. I’m definitely making a concerted effort to pay with cash these days. I also opened an ing savings account and have money taken directly out of my paycheck.

    It’s a great idea to sit down and look at the expenses together. That’s a big step.

    I have to go on vacation every year. Although it’s seen as a luxury, I see it as a necessity lol. I guess that’s why I’ll always work. Vacations don’t have to be super expensive (depending on where you want to go). Hope you’re able to get one in before baby comes.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Bravo to you guys for taking such a proactive approach to the expense of adoption, rather than waiting for the bills to pile up at the end. You’re right – it is SO expensive. And it’s such a shame b/c I think it’s prohibitively pricey for a lot of people who would make amazing parents.
    We did a few of the same things you did – lowered our phone bills, went out to eat less (though we did have some last-minute hurrahs to relish our couple-dom before it became extinct – and I recommend HIGHLY doing this. we are so unbelievably thankful we did). Do you have cable? If so, you could drop that and watch a lot of your favorite shows online. We paid $20 for a cable that allows us to hook my laptop directly up to our TV and watch anything that’s online on our big screen. It’s sweet and saves us tons of money.
    How about Netflix instead of going to the movies? Craigslist is a fabulous place for buying stuff – if you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you! πŸ˜‰
    We’ve also done a TON of selling our own stuff on craigslist. We had a garage sale, which made a couple hundred bucks, which isn’t much, but hey – it paid for a government form submission! Invest in a great cookbook and cookware – you can enjoy cooking dates together instead of going out to eat.
    And the vacation? I know it sounds totally hokey, but we took one of those Apple Vacations to a resort in Mexico and it was FREAKING AWESOME. I felt like a loser American shlub only a tiny bit, but we loved it – the most relaxing trip we’ve ever taken b/c everything is done for you. You just book it, get on the plane, someone picks you up and takes you to your resort, and all (ALL!) food and alcohol is included. It. Was. Sweet. And the best part? Totally affordable? A lot of times, you can get a whole week for like $600 pp. Hokey, but awesome.
    Hope this helps!

    • Kelly says:

      While we haven’t done an Apple Vacation per se, we *love* the all-inclusive beach vacation. They are SO relaxing and if you find a good deal, it helps keep expenses in line because you’re not having to add on here or there for meals and drinks (which can really add up on vacation).

  3. Brandi says:

    I know I don’t have adoption expenses, but we’re really trying to cut back this year! My thing right now is grocery shopping. I’ve been getting into coupons. is a great one! they do a lot of the work for you by telling you sales at all of the stores and the coupons to match! It does take a little coordinating and some time, but it does save you! There is site I found through facebook, and the name is escaping me right now. Let me know if you want it!! πŸ™‚

  4. Zoe says:

    Boy, do I hear you on this! We are not the best budgeters, and there is so much we need to save for this year that we’ve got to figure out where to cut and how to save more. One of the things we spend tons on is food and I find meal planning helps us spend much less. Now just to do that each week! I also need to examine our bills — the heating bill is killing us this winter!

  5. Liz says:

    The best piece of advice I got – and took – in this area was to sit down and figure out the extra expenses I would have once I had a child and then start putting that amount of money away in a savings account every month. You may be in a different situation, but as a single person adding a child means a huge increase to my health insurance premiums – going from individual to family plan – and then there’s pre-school. I found out what both of those would cost per month, divided by four, and had that amount automatically transferred from checking to savings every week. It adds up fast!

    • Kelly says:

      That’s a great idea, Liz! One reason (which I didn’t explain above) that we want to look at our expenses now, in addition to saving for adoption expenses, is to adjust for the fact that we’ll have another person to care for soon – and we’ve got to find a way to fit that in. I love this suggestion…

  6. Stephen says:

    I was in line at the grocery last month and this couple had $26 in coupons. It was amazing but with all the smart phone apps today I’m sure it’s doable.

  7. Christine says:

    Oh man… I so get this. We have post-adoption debt. A lot of it. We actually just broke down and took some money out of an investment we had to pay off some of it. Not the most financially sound plan… but better for my mental well-being. We’re in the same housing market crisis as you are… which is terrifying. Add in that I’m not working now and YIKES.

    We just dropped our direct tv to the lowest plan (cable isn’t an option here) and our phone to boot. We need a land line for the TV and the alarm (which saves us more on homeowners than it costs us) and lately I’ve been using as many coupons as I can find and totally budgeting our meals where I can. I saved $80 at the grocery store the other week just planning my meals to take advantage of their in-store deals (two weeks of groceries for $160) But it’s still not enough, so I’ll be checking back to see what other ideas I can get from folks here!

    • Kelly says:

      Our last resort is taking money out of our retirement accounts. We wouldn’t be thrilled about it, but like you said, sometimes you have to take steps like that to save your mental health. We also think a lot about me staying home at least for several months, and for that to happen some serious changes would have to happen.

      $80 in grocery savings in one trip?! You rock!

  8. Barbara Ball says:

    It sure is a lot of money! There’s simply no way around that. Andy and I have found that planning a weekly menu and grocery shopping once per week helps save almost $200/month. Fortunately for us, the housing market in Canada has been okay, so we were able to do a line of credit against our house for our adoption. One thing I must emphasize is that you NEED to go on a wonderfully relaxing all-inclusive vacation pre-baby. Andy and I bit the bullet and paid top dollar for our trip to the Mayan Riviera over March Break 2007 (only time to go since we’re teachers). It was worth every single penny, and we still talk/dream about it today, almost two years later.

    The money for your adoption will come together in the end. I always say that people will spend that kind of money on a car and then they can’t imagine how adoptive parents come up with the money for an adoption! A car vs. a baby?!! Not even comparable!

    • Kelly says:

      I agree, Barbara, that it will somehow come together in the end! We decided long ago not to let money keep us from building our family, and we know it will work out somehow. And we also agree on the vacation – it’s something we both need (now, frankly, although it’s not going to happen until maybe September), and we know we won’t have that opportunity again for quite some time. I think we will both feel better about spending vacation money, though, if we’ve made some progress on the adoption money!

  9. Theresa says:

    You are so right. It is a daunting task and when your child is home and all of the adoption expenses are paid, you will wonder how you ever did it. haha. We have $10,000 on an interest free credit card that we are going to pay off with the adoption tax credit. We had 15 months of zero interest. Also, I deferred (well I forget the word they called it) my student loan payments (they are still accruing interest) all of last year (thats an extra $300 a month toward the adoption fees) and I am doing it again this year and next so that I can stay home with the girls. We will add that back in as soon as money isn’t as tight. Other than that we are debt free and have an emergency savings. Jon’s truck will be paid off this month which is a big help. So we won’t have a car payment. You can do this! You are on the right track by reviewing your spending. We were able to save $1,000 per month by deferring my student loans, and cutting back on all unnecessary spending. Crazy how that money became available when we put our minds to it. We also do not have a home phone (just our cell phone package) and we have basic cable. Best of luck to you! Yay for adoption!

    • Kelly says:

      I’ve looked into deferring my student loans, and I guess that is a possibility for us if push comes to shove. You are right that there are ways to make it work that we probably don’t even think about on a regular basis. I loved the timing of your recent post about being a SAHM and the financial implications.

  10. Jodi says:

    I know it’s not much, but we buy ALOT of the store brand groceries instead of the “real” brands. We get the generic cereal in a bag instead of the Kellogs or General Mills. We buy the store brand chips instead of Lays or Ruffles. Etc, etc. Most of the items we buy don’t taste any different than the “real” ones! And they are often half the price.

    Every little bit counts with the adoption expenses piling up!

    Oh, and we did an Apple Vacation to Cancun. It was fabulous, and pretty cheap! πŸ™‚

  11. sue says:

    that’s great that you are starting to save now. and you are right – it is a lot of money! i enjoyed reading through everyone else’s suggestions. we did a lot of the same things. we simplified a lot in our life by only having basic cable. we did a home equity line of credit, but it doesn’t sound like that is possible for you right now. we try to only eat out a few times per month. i have tried coupons and i just am not good at it! but i hope to get better someday!

  12. live2roam says:

    So I really don’t have very good advice on saving money. We need to, but I am just not good with the budget. Our biggest issue is food, so we just try to eat out less and use what we buy at the store. Sigh…Maybe I will get some good advice and inspiration from you!

    As far as the vacation…totally worth the money. We have many times looked at how much we spent and almost freaked, but it was worth every penny and they are great memories. Not to mention how refreshed I felt when I got back. All inclusive is great!!! I have been to a couple in Mexico and they are fabulous. I never realized what a luxury time was until we had the wee one. GO NOW, RUN TO THE PLANE!!! Have fun!

  13. Robin says:

    I think it sounds like you guys have a good plan as far as how to save money. We have tried to do all of those things, plus we do stuff like cut back on our cable package, bundle our internet and phone, shop around for insurance, negotiate with credit cards over lowering interest rates (or opening new accounts with lower rates) and trying to save a bit, if only 50 bucks a pay check that gets raided for groceries occasionally!

    It’s a daunting prospect (the money) but I think you guys have the right attitude to get it done. A new job might also be good for you.. just make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew with a bigger workload.

    Oh, this might not be for you, but when you DH and I need a “cheap” getaway, we go camping. There are some nice semi secluded camping areas near us and we are guarenteed some quality alone time without distractions. It’s pretty fun too!

    • Kelly says:

      I really wish I was into camping! I bet I could get into it if I really tried. I certainly love nature and all it has to offer. Actually, one of our vacation ideas involves going out west to tour some of the national parks.

  14. Leah says:

    I could have written this post. Wow! Adoption IS so expensive, and we’re in the same boat as you. . . wondering how the heck we’ll pay for the last chunk of it.

    It sounds like you guys are making great plans on reducing spending, so that’s a good step. πŸ˜€

  15. Emily says:

    I was just thinking about you and thought I’d check in on the blog. πŸ™‚

    The idea from Liz is excellent advice! It’s so true how much the little one will add to your monthly expenses – daycare/preschool, health insurance, doctor visits, diapers, food, clothes, shoes, gear….it adds up fast! Saving that now will help you get an idea of what your expenses are going to be.

    I don’t have any good advice for saving money – it sounds to me like you’re on the right track. The software that tracks your expenses is something we’ve used for awhile and it really shows you where you spend your money and where you can cut.

    Take care! And vacations are a necessity not a luxury! I’m scheming to try and take one this year!

  16. CatherineD says:

    Oh, this is a good post. We sooo need to sit down and do a budget. Especially since we want to adopt again. I am stealing some of your money-saving ideas. We hate the big warehouse store too, but that is a good idea and will probably help. Plus, there’s one just a couple minutes from our house.

    We have had some good money-saving ideas, but we’re not so good at following through. Ideally, we try to clip coupons, shop based on the grocery sales fliers, we use cloth diapers at home, I’ve joined some online coupon sites but haven’t really used them yet. We do go out to eat less… but we both have our weaknesses (for me -clothes and baby stuff; for Brian -art and sporting events). Oh, who am I kidding. We’re horrible at saving!

    But yes, definitely go on your baby-moon. We went to Hawaii.

    We also had to take out a loan to help cover our expenses. Good luck to you with the job search.

  17. Evelyn says:

    I wish I had some good ideas because now that we have completely depleted our savings account, I could use some. Pretty good ideas from your readers here. Hope you are able to take a vacation – you deserve it.


  18. angela says:

    Hi Kelly,

    I’m glad you posted this and I love the comments you’ve received thus far. Everyone is very real and honest. Adoption and children are expensive. To pretend they aren’t and not discuss preparing for them is fantasy in my opinion. You have a great blog and awesome blog friends! I enjoy reading. It’s so refreshing.

    I cut back on shopping last year. I love to shop and every blue moon, I’ll fall off the wagon. We’re getting back into gear to send our dossier off now.

    I hope you guys are able to celebrate your 10th in a special way.

  19. angela says:

    I think we’re going to have to take a loan too, Kelly.

  20. klarobinson215 says:

    Great post. You are so right about the costs – even now comparing what our 2nd is going to cost in comparison to #1 – it is about $5,000 more – just 2 years later!
    I stopped clothing shopping, unless it was at places like Old Navy 😦 We stopped eatting out as much, we make grocery lists and menus – that helps a lot. We dont’ rent movies or buy books/cds – just use my library (since I dont’ get fines it helps even more!), and crazy as it seems, we are buying our new house to pay off our LOC that we got from adoption #1 (it happened so fast we didn’t have time to save as much!). Now we are on a cash only budget – like Til Debt Do Us Part (Canadian tv show) – and are not using debit. It has helped – ALOT.
    Best of luck!

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